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IndustryArena Forum > MetalWorking > General Metalwork Discussion > cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?
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  1. #1
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    cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?

    I am trying to find out how much I would need to spend to get a lathe that would allow me to turn down my own air rifle barrels?

    I don't want to spend a fortune as I don't have a regular need for steel turning. I would be happy to dip my toe with with a bench lathe but most of the ones I have seen seem too small to turn a 22" barrel or they have plastic gears that don't do so well with steel.


    So... are there any hobby-level options for turning a 5/8" x 22" steel rifle barrel?

    I don't mind if I have to work slowly as it's just for a hobby. I just want to know that it's possible for me to get there eventually...

  2. #2
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    Re: cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?

    https://www.grizzly.com/products/Gri...SABEgJb6PD_BwE

    Sent from my MHA-L29 using Tapatalk

  3. #3
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    Re: cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?

    https://www.toolots.com/bolton-tools...CABEgJvzPD_BwE

    Sent from my MHA-L29 using Tapatalk

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    Re: cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisW View Post
    https://www.toolots.com/bolton-tools...CABEgJvzPD_BwE

    Sent from my MHA-L29 using Tapatalk
    Have you tried one of the Bolton Tools lathes? They seem to be very well priced.

    Do you think I could get away with one of their smaller cheaper models if I used the through bore?

    The 25 cal air rifle barrels I use have an OD of .63" . The Bolton Tools 8" x 15" has a bore of .8". Or would doing it in sections cause accuracy issues?

  5. #5
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    Re: cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?

    You can do half and flip and do the rest.

    Doing it in sections you definitely loose accuracy.

    Jaws on these lathes are not very accurate you would have to indicate it every time you move your workpiece.

    Post a picture or drawing.

    Sent from my MHA-L29 using Tapatalk

  6. #6
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    Re: cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?

    What kind of machining are you talking about on these barrels?

  7. #7
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    Re: cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?

    they have plastic gears that don't do so well with steel.
    My mini lathe (60 kg, 0.5 kW) has plastic gears. I turn steel a lot and haven't broken any gear yet in the last 10 years.
    My small lathe (260 kg, 1.5 kW) has steel gears. I replaced one of the steel gears to a plastic gear (POM) because they run more silent!

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    Re: cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?

    Quote Originally Posted by 109jb View Post
    What kind of machining are you talking about on these barrels?
    It varies by air rifle but typically it requires turning down the diameter, shortening the overall length to taste, adding threads at both ends, cutting the lead and adding any internal O ring grooves that are needed. Then there is all the internal polishing of the lands to get something close to a mirror smooth finish (without damaging any of the grooves).

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    Re: cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?

    This guy describes the process for his particular air rifle. What he does is fairly typical of what I want to do:

    https://airgunwarriors.com/resources...uch_HW100S.pdf

    Accuracy is key. Getting it wrong means the barrel won't fit the action properly and it won't be accurate which would defeat the purpose of putting higher quality barrels on my pcp rifles....

  10. #10
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    Re: cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?

    In the document it looks to me as if he is turning the entire length on a taper, hence the boring head installed on the tailstock. That is one method for taper turning. If he is indeed turning on a taper then you are going to need a lathe with enough length to do this and this means a center to center distance to accomodate the barrel + the extra length of the boring head. The between centers distance is generally with the shortest centers in the headstock and the tailstock. So if you wan to do a 22" barrell, figure needing about 26" advertised between center distance as a minimum.

    If you don't need to turn the whole barrel on a taper then the other operations looks pretty benign and anything that has a through spindle bore greater than 0.7" should do. This includes the 7x10/12/14 mini lathes. That will be the cheapest, but I had one and wasn't impressed. Mine was a Harbor Freight version so that may have had something to do with it, but I wasn't a fan of the 500w DC motor, and I remember the feedrate being too high for steel even with the lowest set of gears installed. I would personally step up to a bit bigger machine but if the barrels are all you are going to be turning then the 7xXX lathes might be ok.

  11. #11
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    Re: cheapest lathe / minimum spec to turn steel?

    Quote Originally Posted by 109jb View Post
    In the document it looks to me as if he is turning the entire length on a taper, hence the boring head installed on the tailstock. That is one method for taper turning. If he is indeed turning on a taper then you are going to need a lathe with enough length to do this and this means a center to center distance to accomodate the barrel + the extra length of the boring head. The between centers distance is generally with the shortest centers in the headstock and the tailstock. So if you wan to do a 22" barrell, figure needing about 26" advertised between center distance as a minimum.

    If you don't need to turn the whole barrel on a taper then the other operations looks pretty benign and anything that has a through spindle bore greater than 0.7" should do. This includes the 7x10/12/14 mini lathes. That will be the cheapest, but I had one and wasn't impressed. Mine was a Harbor Freight version so that may have had something to do with it, but I wasn't a fan of the 500w DC motor, and I remember the feedrate being too high for steel even with the lowest set of gears installed. I would personally step up to a bit bigger machine but if the barrels are all you are going to be turning then the 7xXX lathes might be ok.
    None of my pcp rifles have a taper on the barrel. I'm not sure if that guy put one on his but it's not a general requirement. I understand that you can do basic turning and threading on most lathes. The part that I am worried about is if the motor and other parts will cope with the hardened steel.

    I tried to cut a hardened linear rail shaft with my angle grinder once. It didn't even make a scratch and it easily cut through regular steel...

    With the hardness of the steel, I am also worried about how precise it will be. Is there a minimum size motor needed for turning hardened steel?

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